In a place where drugs like marijuana are becoming legalized for recreational use, other drugs are becoming somewhat accepted as well. A clinic in Seattle, Washington is attempting to open a safe-use location, welcoming heroin and cocaine users alike. This clinic is the first of its kind in our country in an attempt to combat overdosing.
Each site will have staff on-hand to monitor drug users as well as have the ability to intervene if problems occur including overdosing, seizure, withdrawals, or other medical problems. Users will be able to bring in drugs from off the street and begin using under supervision.
A local group in Seattle hopes that small safe-sites will help reduce the amount of litter from needles and caps used for drugs such as heroin. They are also attempting to reduce the amount of HIV and other diseases that are spread from intravenous drug use. Most importantly these sites are to help prevent overdose death rates by monitoring the drug users dosages.
Drugs like Naloxone, which cancels the effects of opioids and other drugs by filling the receptors before the endorphins can enter will be on-site. This medicine evacuates the opiate of choice from the drug user’s system, which could potentially save the lives of those overdosing.
While many are opposing the idea in fear that they are just allowing the users to continue their addiction, some are also in favor in hopes that it will lead to their recovery, ensuring they live to see the next day. More information could help persuade those against the site.
“I was a narcotics detective, so I’m still trying to wrap my head around this,” John Urquhart, Sheriff of Kings County had stated, finishing by saying, “But the more I hear, the more open I am to the possibility.” With studies being done and more information being gathered, organizers of the safe-site are hoping more supporters will open up to the idea.
Dan Satterberg, Prosecutor for King County, is also keeping an open mind to safe-sites after speaking with Vancouver police officers who credited Insite, a Canadian safe-site that has stopped overdoses from becoming fatal. He is however worried that these sites could create a concentration of drug dealers and drug users, which could easily and quickly become a significant problem.
Jesse Perrin, an officer on the Capitol Hill Community Council has said that they would be on board with welcoming a safe-site on Capitol Hill. Their plan is to involve every neighborhood council in Seattle to get a collective voice on the implementation of a safe-site. “We hear about used needles in parks, and in alleys, so this would increase the health and wellbeing of people using and not using.”
The idea arose when Liz Evans, founder of Insite, a 13-year-old safe injection site in Vancouver, B.C., visited and spoke to the Seattle City Council’s public-health committee. Insite has never had any overdose deaths on site, and have shown some results in caring for drug users.
Numerous peer-reviewers have looked into Insite and found that they are reducing the number of fatal overdoses, disease transmission, and also assisting some people into entering addiction treatments. “There have been overdoses, but nobody has died, and that’s a big deal,” Caleb Banta-Green, a researcher with UW’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute claimed.
The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance(PHRA), which has been running a clean needle exchange for over two decades, is the major group foundering the safe-use sites. Their director, Shilo Murphy said the idea has been in talks for a long time. When asked about the sites, Murphy explained, “[We] need to move ahead as fast as we can because this is a crisis, people are dying.”
For over two years Murphy and his group had been planning a site, which was during Mayor Mike McGinn’s attempt to end the “war on drugs”. “This was the time to strike, and we went to work!” Murphy said, finishing with, “This isn’t a matter of if — this is a matter of when.”
Shiloh and his group helped raise nearly $20,000, which they are using to look for a vacancy for a starter site. A small storefront could allow room for between four to eight people to use safely, along with two volunteers and nurses. In 2014, over 150 deaths were from a heroin overdose in King County alone, which is up from 100 deaths in 2013, and only 49 deaths in 2009.
Officials in favor of the safe-sites agreed together that it would be best to have multiple small sites instead of a major safe-site. This would prevent concentrations of drug users and dealers from going to one area of the city. Supporters believe it may cause a bigger hole in the community’s pocket, but the safety aspect of this is priority.
Although we understand why lawmakers are considering these sites in Seattle, we wonder if it is just another desperate attempt to fight against addiction. As the drug epidemic continues to rise, politicians are scrambling to come up with a outcomes. Yes, these drug users are being monitored by medical staff with Narcan, but will that be enough to combat addiction? These safe-sites are giving the addict further permission to use. Instead of investing time and resources into facilities such as these, politicians need to turn their attention to better prevention and intervention methods, as well as make resources for treatment more readily available. Although safe-sites are preventing overdose, they are not addressing the disease of addiction. While these sites may be viewed as beneficial in the short-term, those who are opposed realize that these centers are just prolonging the outcome of addiction…Death.
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